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Deformed Discourse: The Function of the Monster in Mediaeval Thought and Literature

Winner of the Raymond Klibansky Book Prize, given by the Humanities and Social Sciences Federation of Canada (1998).rn______________________________rnrnIn Deformed Discourse David Williams explores the concept of the monster in the Middle Ages, examining its philosophical and theological roots and analysing its symbolic function in medieval literature and art. rnrnPart I traces the poetics of teratology, the study of monsters, to Christian neoplatonic theology and philosophy, particularly Pseudo-Dionysius’s negative theology and his central idea that God cannot be known except by knowing what he is not. Williams argues that the principles of negative theology as applied to epistemology and language made possible a symbolism of negation and paradox whose chief sign was the monster. Part II provides a taxonomy of monstrous forms with a gloss on each, and Part III examines the monstrous and the deformed in three heroic sagas — the medieval Oedipus, The Romance of Alexander, and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight — and three saints’ lives — Saint Denis, Saint Christopher, and Saint Wilgeforte. The book is beautifully illustrated with medieval representations of monsters.rnrnThe most comprehensive study of the grotesque in medieval aesthetic expression, Deformed Discourse successfully brings together medieval research and modern criticism.rn

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